The Sidney Sun-Telegraph - Serving proudly since 1873 as the beautiful Nebraska Panhandle's first newspaper

From the Editor

We have ourselves to blame

 


Congressional approval now sputters at 10 percent or thereabouts. And for reasons particular to American politics, the members of this once august body hardly care.

That’s right—grouse all we want, the likes of Boehner, Cantor, Reid, Cruz, Gohmert and Pelosi merely shrug. What this nation thinks of their lack of performance means nothing to those voted into office.

Our form of democracy was not supposed to work this way. Although the founding fathers entered into some bitter arguments, they understood that governing bodies exist to resolve disputes, to find a point all sides could live with—whether or not they fully agreed. As Ben Franklin said to delegates at the Constitutional Convention, “I cannot help expressing a wish that every member of the Convention who may still have objections to it would, with me on this occasion, doubt a little of his own infallibility” and sign the document.

Yet we’ve created the very monster we despise.

The problem starts with that old human flaw expressed as “to the victors go the spoils.” In political terms, it is expressed as redistricting.

Both sides engage in this when they can, carving out safe congressional districts, dispersing stubborn minorities who might vote against your man or woman to other districts to effectively silence opposition. As a result, narrow minded politicians arrive in Washington secure in the knowledge that, however insane their views, reelection to the seat is assured. Meanwhile voices that might ultimately mollify the situation are shunted to the side.

To solve this part of the problem, it’s necessary for voters to rally against any redistricting that breaks from necessary patters. Drawing new lines based upon population shifts is acceptable; doing so along party lines smacks of anti-democratic hubris.

The Supreme Court added to the problem in their Citizens United decision. By declaring that money equals freedom of speech and that corporations deserve the same rights as individuals, they opened the way for Super PACs and the single-issue multi-millionaires who dictate their whims to candidates and parties. Not too long ago, more than 70 percent of Democrats and Republicans agreed that protecting this nation’s environment was important. Now—after years of “funded” deregulation messages—less than half of all Republicans consider the environment critical. Now the court is on the verge of weakening campaign finance laws yet again.

We could reverse this by remembering that whoever we elect to public office has a say in approving court appointments. And by being honest with ourselves: party matters less than country.

Finally, we must learn to dismiss the Joe the Plumber notion. We do not want people like us—people who urge that we nuke “enemy” nations or usher non Judeo-Christians from our borders. Those elected in the post 9-11 fervor, backed by PAC ideology and a firm belief in certain values willingly ignore the warnings of Franklin and the founders.

Remember, politics is the art of compromise. Ideologues refuse to compromise—and, when called out, blame the other side for digging in their heels.

These people do America a great disservice.

Perhaps Ted Cruz and the others of this ilk, whatever their party, should recall the highlights of Franklin’s speech, delivered by James Wilson (Franklin was too ill) as the convention prepared to vote on the Constitution in 1787.

“I confess that there are several parts of this Constitution which I do not at present approve, but I am not sure I shall never approve them,” his address said at one point, explaining that differing religions consider themselves without fault when it comes to doctrine—meaning the other, equally absolute set must be wrong.

“Thus I consent, sir, to this Constitution because I expect no better, and because I am not sure that it is not the best,” his talk continued. He added that his complaints about different provisions remained within the walls of the Philadelphia chamber where the founders hashed things out. To air personal grievances or rally a partisan minority against it would weaken the document.

Of course, Franklin wasn’t some buffoon had no recourse if the experiment failed. He earned nothing from super PAC backers and cared more for the future of the country and its diverse people than enforcing his own personal moral beliefs (fortunately).

What did he know? His popularity never fell to 10 percent.

 

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